Episode 10×03 or “The Worst Game of Hide-and-Seek Ever”
So far this season: Dean’s a demon; Crowley’s his BFF; Cas is losing his grace; and Sam has captured Dean one-handedly. Pun intended.
*Spoilers ahead, darling*
“Soul Catcher” lights up on Sam dressed as a doctor (the lab coat suits him), watching as a priest blesses blood. We already know that Sam is going to use the cure introduced in the season 8 finale, but because Dean possesses the Mark of Cain, we don’t know if it will work. Dean doesn’t want to be “fixed,” and fights against the cure. He calls Sam the real monster, and through flashbacks we see that Sam was the one who convinced Lester–Dean’s mark in “Reichenbach”–to sell his soul so that he could find a demon to torture to learn the location of his brother and the King of Hell.
Meanwhile Castiel is on his way to the bunker to assist Sam, with Hannah by his side. He’s visibly fading now, and if the tired eyes and hunched shoulders are any indication, his stolen Grace won’t last much longer. Hannah admits her concern to Castiel, and in a very human moment Cas says that he is “fine.” We humans all know what “fine” means.
As they make their way to the bunker, we sense a growing tension between the two angels. A Castiel/Hannah romance has been hinted at, but in a scene that reads remarkably like friend-zoning, Castiel tells Hannah that their priority should always be the mission. For right now, that mission is Dean, and that subtext is blaring, loud and clear.
Meanwhile in Hell, Crowley is bored by the politics and everyday semantics of being a leader. We see another flashback to the “good times” with Dean, and perhaps our favorite King of Hell is a little more human and sentimental than he’d like us to think. In between executing Abaddon’s followers and disintegrating his wannabe wing-men, Crowley maintains a tenuous hold on his kingdom. I sense a coup forthcoming.
Cas and Hannah are ambushed by Adina at a gas station, and the weakened angel is defenseless. Instead of Hannah saving Castiel, whom she professes to feel fondly for, it is Crowley who swoops into the rescue, albeit grumpily. With a flick of his wrist, he wrests Adina’s Grace from her, and with another flick, she bites the celestial dust. It is Crowley who cradles Castiel’s head and convinces him to take the Grace, that he’s more useful alive than dead.
Back in the bunker, Dean has escaped the demon’s trap that Sam put him in, and so begins the most terrifying game of hide-and-seek. Throughout the episode, Dean has insisted that he doesn’t want to be saved, that Sam is wrong. This is the new Dean, he says. The old Dean, the one who gave a crap about good versus evil, is dead. Now that Dean’s escaped, the demonic Winchester wants to play a little game with his brother, one in which there’s only one survivor. It’s a harrowing sequence, Dean hunting his brother, and as the game of cat-and-mouse progresses, Sam grows visibly more and more terrified. At one point, he gets his brother at knife-point, but he can’t do it. He can’t kill Dean, because there ain’t no Sammy if there ain’t no Dean. Fortunately, a newly-supercharged Castiel is there to physically restrain Demon!Dean, and the side-by-side of Grace eyes with Demon eyes is enough to make me realise that I’m not ready for Demon!Dean to go.
By episode’s end, Sam cures Dean, Cas is back in the bunker with his besties, and everything is right in the Winchesters’ world again.
Yeah, not even close.
What This Episode Reveals About Team Free Will
While I will discuss the main themes emerging in season in more detail, it’s important to acknolwedge that Castiel and Sam are both tackling the same task right now in Supernatural: they are on a quest to save someone who does not want to be saved. Sam’s misplaced obligation to do anything to save his brother exemplifies Winchester co-dependency, ever after Cas tells him that he might have to kill his brother.
The Winchesters have long used each other as crutches, and while they can both acknowledge that their relationship is screwed up, neither knows how to fix it. Now Sam’s quest to save Dean has cost a man his soul–or so Dean would have his brother believe. Sam, more than most, understands the value of a soul after having been without his in season six, and Demon!Dean knows that reminding Sam of that is driving the knife home. Sam is now making choices for Dean, since he views Dean as “not himself”, and really, are these choices so different from the ones Dean made at the beginning of season 9?
My poor broken Moose, you can’t even see the forest through the trees.
Is Demon!Dean even Dean anymore? All obvious indicators point to “no.” He’s cruel, malicious, and doesn’t have a problem with making his younger brother cry. This is not the Dean Winchester we have fallen in love with over the past decade. Dean has become what he once hated most; for Cole, he is Azazel. As Sam continues with the cure, Dean’s words become more and more spiteful, even throwing the death of their mother in his face (too soon, Dean). When Dean escapes the demon trap, he chooses a hammer as his weapon, which would end his brother’s life in a particularly gruesome and violent way. This episode is a physical manifestation of Dean’s inner battle, and everyone take a moment to slow clap for Jensen Ackles. He’s not holding any punches, and the roar of anger we hear when Cas restrains him is utterly inhuman.
However, two things have happened that make me wonder if Dean is really as far gone as he appears. 1. The note we saw in the premiere episode. Why would a demon be considerate enough to leave his brother a note? Especially one telling him to move on? 2. Dean killed Lester instead of Lester’s wife, and therefore Lester’s soul is not taken to Hell, because the deal was not fulfilled. If Dean knew about Sam’s part in Lester’s deal, could he have intentionally botched the deal so Lester wouldn’t lose his soul?
The most interesting character this season (to me, at least) is Castiel. Last season we had Human!Cas, and this season we have a Cas who is quickly losing his stolen Grace, a Cas who is more like a human than not. He lies to Hannah and Sam about his pain, and when Crowley offered him Adina’s stolen Grace, he initially resists. This will be Castiel’s main tension this season: he wants to be human.
I’ve accused Supernatural writers in the past of being heavy-handed with their parallels, but so far in the tenth season, I think they’ve quite skilfully drawn comparisons between each of the main characters, in particular Dean and Castiel. Cas wants to be human; Dean does not want to be human. It’s quite remarkable that neither Sam nor Crowley can understand Dean’s simultaneous reluctance to fully embrace his demonic role and rejection of his human nature. Unsurprisingly, it is Cas who knows why Dean wants to remain a demon, but not rule Hell. “Only humans can feel real joy, but also such profound pain. This is easier,” says Cas. At the end of season 9, we had a Cas who just wanted to be an angel. Angels don’t feel the pain he felt at Dean’s death. Now that Dean is alive, we will likely see a Cas who embraces humanity even more. He understands why Dean is rejecting his humanity, and Dean and Castiel embody two people at absolute opposites.
The Big Picture
Let’s talk about Hannah. Aside from being an obvious mirror of an earlier Castiel, what purpose does she serve? I’ve seen her name tossed around on the interwebs as a possible romantic interest for Cas, but last night’s awkward friend-zoning scene seems to be steering clear of that. Again, I think the writers have created an interesting female character that they don’t know what to do with (see: Abaddon). Instead of having her being a strong, driven female angel who becomes the visionary leader that Heaven needs, she is easily overpowered by Adina and lays passively on the floor while Castiel almost dies and needs Crowley, a man, to save him. Listen up, Supernatural writers: women are not meant to be complemental arm candies to demonstrate the strength of a man’s character; women can and do kick ass all on their own. Hannah has the potential to be one of the strongest female characters to ever have been on the show, but I feel that she’ll be the metaphor of Castiel’s celestial existence and come to a bitter and abrupt end.
Dean and Castiel’s conversation at the end of “Soul Survivor” indicates three things: 1. When Cas says Heaven and Hell are quiet, we know that shit is destined to hit the fan. And soon. 2. No matter their time apart, Cas and Dean have the uncanny ability to understand and empathize with each other (profound bond, yo). There is a reason it was Castiel and not Sam who got the quintessential Winchester bonding moment at the end of the episode. 3. The Mark of Cain hasn’t released its hold on Dean Winchester yet, and if the story of Cain is any indication, there will be more strife between the two brothers and it will take a deep and, dare I say it, profound, relationship to help him overcome its effects. But first, Dean will have to kill Cain.
Also, what’s the deal with the woman who treats men like gravity-defying pincushions? Is she the new big bad? Thoughts?
Until next week, SPN family.